Samsung shows off new 2011 monitors
SAN FRANCISCO--Samsung showed off its 2011 monitor lineup and I definitely came away impressed. From movies, to gaming, to professional needs and business, Samsung is swinging a large swath in a very wide arc, but based on my time with its offerings, I can say it is not slipping on quality.
Movies on monitors have never looked this good
There's probably not a better Blu-ray movie than "Avatar" for showing off a high-end HDTV. Samsung obviously knows this, and upon walking into the company's PR office meeting room, those lovable blue ThunderCats, as rendered on the T27A950, immediately caught my eye.
The 27-inch, 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution T27A950 is Samsung's high-end HDTV/monitor hybrid, optimized for HD movie playback. The monitor uses a Twisted Nematic (TN) panel, and while its TN roots are apparent thanks to its narrow viewing angles, when viewed straight on the movie looked stunningly impressive, with very deep blacks and vibrant color.
Samsung used its highest-quality TN panel for the T27A950 and credits its great movie playback performance to a combination of panel tech, optimizations made by Samsung engineers, and its use of Ultra Clear Panel technology.
According to Samsung, Ultra Clear Panel (used in many of its HDTVs) is a coating added to the front of the screen that reduces reflections, while at the same time increases the level of contrast. Even with the coating, we noticed a high amount of reflections in the well-lit room, but the pop of the contrast hit us right square in the eye, thanks to the deep, piano-black black levels and vibrant color that never stopped impressing me during my limited exposure to the display.
It says a lot about the T27A950's movie playback performance that I haven't yet spoken about its design, which in a word can be described as gorgeous and unique. OK, that's two words--or three, if you must be absolutely literal--but in this case one word just isn't enough.
The 27-inch screen sits atop a wide and somewhat flat base stand that spans the length of the panel, with the screen connected on the right side.
This design enables a few degrees of tilt, but no other ergonomic options. The panel is incredibly thin and, though probably not as slim as the thinnest ever, its depth is noticeably less than the PX2370.
The metallic chrome design accentuates the monitor's smooth finish, with no ports, connections, or VESA screw holes on the panel to ruin the aesthetic. The base accepts the burden of connections, and on its back are two USB ports, a PC audio in and out, an optical audio, and a connection for the included composite/component dongle.
Unfortunately, no DVI port is included, but Samsung attempts to make up for this by featuring two HDMI ports instead. As an added bonus, each HDMI port can be switched to video or graphics optimization through the onscreen menu.
The display comes with a very comprehensive-looking remote control that gives you access to the onscreen menu, which, aside from its inclusion of Smart Hub, had way too many settings for me to remember.
Smart Hub provides streaming video, games, and apps, including Facebook and Twitter. Also, you can stream video from any AllShare-enabled device, like a Samsung smartphone, directly to the T27A950. Thanks to the monitor's Ethernet port and built-in CPU, this can all be done without the aid of a computer connected to the display.
Included with the S27A950 is a pair of wireless, proprietary, active-shutter 3D glasses. The glasses have a slightly different shutter pattern than Nvidia's offerings, which results in the shutter being fully open more often than the Nvidia counterpart.
According to Samsung, the shutter lens is open 70 percent of the time, whereas Nvidia's--or "Company N", as its press materials refer it--is open only 32 percent of the time. This purportedly results in a longer battery life for the glasses and less strain on the eye, due to more ambient light being allowed in.
In my short look at "Shrek 3D" with the glasses on, I noticed pretty good 3D depth, with visuals that--mercifully--didn't seem as dark as what I'm used to on Nvidia's solution. The display also supports 2D-to-3D conversion, which adds a degree of depth to non-3D movies.
While we did notice a subtle increase in depth with converted movies, the 3D effect paled in comparison with true 3D content shot with 3D cameras or movies that have been post-converted by the studio. It's an enhancing little extra, though, if you can't get enough 3D.
Unlike the way Nvidia's solution has widely been implemented on monitors, by requiring a separate 3D emitter, Samsung's monitor has a built-in 3D emitter, and the technology is compatible with both Nvidia and AMD graphics cards.
Picture-in-picture and Auto Motion Plus round out the features I was privy to. That said, I didn't get a chance to dig deeply into the menu to see what other features lay beneath.
The T27A950's biggest stumbling block is the lack of support for Full HD (1920x1080), 120Hz 3D games. The monitor will instead run 3D games at only half the game's resolution.
Two versions of the TA950 are just now beginning to ship: the 23-inch T23A950 for $650 and the 27-inch T27A950, priced at $800. Stay tuned to CNET for a full review.
A new tech fuels graphic artists
I previewed the Samsung SyncMaster S27A850 a few weeks back, but this week was my first real hands-on experience with it. The S27A850 is a 27-inch, high-performance monitor aimed at professional graphic artists with a high, full HD resolution of 2,560x1,440 pixels.
The is also the first Samsung monitor to employ the company's new panel technology, Plane Line Switching (PLS), which is essentially a lot like In-Plane Switching (IPS) seen on many current monitors, but purportedly can let more light through the panel for a lower power consumption cost. Theoretically, this results in a brighter image, but, honestly, I'd need to employ my trusty color analyzer (which I didn't have on me) to see for sure.
The display's white LED backlight affords it one of the thinnest panel designs we've yet seen on a professional monitor, coming in at about half the panel depth as, say, the Dell UltraSharp U2711.
Other than the new panel tech, the most unique physical attribute of the 850 was the alcove-like "cubby hole" on the back of the panel where the display's power brick can be concealed. This is especially useful if you're the type of person who wall-mounts your professional display, a feature the 850 also includes.
And the rest...
Wrapping things up, we got a look at the S27A950D and S23A750D. Each uses the same high-quality TN panel as the T27A950, but is optimized for 3D gaming with true 120Hz gaming performance and slightly faster refresh rates (3ms vs. 2ms).
While the T27A950 halves its resolution to display 3D games, both the S27A950D and S23A750D are able to display full HD 3D gaming.
The S23A750D has a more traditional Samsung panel design, but with a very small footprint stand. The S23A750D includes a single DisplayPort and HDMI connection, but thanks to its shrunken footprint, there was no room for DVI.
The S27A950D has the same basic design as the T27A950, with a different collection of ports, including HDMI, DisplayPort, and Dual-link DVI. Each monitor includes the same 3D glasses mentioned above.
I spent a short time with Starcraft II on the S27A950D and was impressed with the 3D effect, which had a high depth level and didn't seem to strain my eyes too much. I was only exposed a few minutes, though, so I'll have to get it back to our labs to really see how it compares with 3D produced by the Nvidia Vision Kit.
Both 23-inch and 27-inch versions of the monitors are beginning to ship now. Prices are $450 for the 23-inch S23A750 and $650 for the 27-inch S27A750. The 23-inch S23A950 will ship for $550, with the 27-inch S27A950 priced at $700.
Lastly, we saw but didn't actually spend any hands-on time with the S23A650, which is essentially a more "corporately" designed version of the Central Station, with the same wireless workstation features. The S23A650 looks a lot like a smaller version of the S27A850D, with many of the same ergonomic features (pivot, swivel, height adjustment). I didn't get any pricing details, but the 650 will ship this month.
Samsung's 2011 monitor lineup is the most impressive I've seen from the company and possibly any monitor vendor for a single year. The company is definitely going high-end with these offerings, giving the enthusiasts a reason to care, while still providing products for budget customers, such as the S23A550H and the still great (and available) PX2370.
I've been anticipating these monitors since I saw them at CES in January, so it'll be nice to see how these compare with other 2011 monitor offerings from Dell and LG. From what I saw this week, Samsung should have tons of momentum heading into the fall.
I was very impressed with what I saw, but I'll still need to wait until I've actually spent some real, uninterrupted time with them to make a final decision on the monitors' quality.
Stay tuned to CNET for more coverage in the next few weeks and months.